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Twenty-five Somonis for a Good Future: How Young Women in Tajikistan Shape Their Futures and Secure Their Present Open Access

In Tajikistan the concept of “womanhood” developed in the Soviet period remains at odds with local conceptions of gender roles. These competing forms of female agency force young women to creatively shape their future, drawing on the paradigm of womanhood that befits their life-world. Here, we see how young women take their future into their own hands, in a society that scrutinizes female behavior and seems to restrict women’s agency. Recognizing that an encounter between two people can change the life course of one of them, this article employs a cross-biographic approach to understand women’s agency in Tajikistan. Based on the biographies of a bakhshi (fortune teller) and two young women who visit her, I explore how these two women of marriageable age deal with their emotional world and a society where failure to marry stigmatizes the whole family. The conscious decision of these young women to meet a bakhshi, to actively allow the bakhshi to influence their life course, offers insight on female agency and young women’s strategies in managing their emotions, controlling their futures, and securing good luck (bakht).

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